Mugabe is 'prepared to fight' if Zimbabwe elects opposition

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

President Robert Mugabe: "We are prepared to fight for our country and to go to war for it."

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who is slated to face opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in a run-off election on June 27, said today that the opposition would never govern Zimbabwe as long as he is alive, vowing to "go to war" if the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) wins the election.

"We shall never, never accept anything that smells of ... the MDC. These pathetic puppets taking over this country? Let's see. That is not going to happen," Mugabe said at the funeral of a former independence fighter. "It shall never happen... as long as we are alive and those who fought for the country are alive," he added. "We are prepared to fight for our country and to go to war for it."

He described Tsvangirai and the opposition as "traitors" and characterized them as puppets of Great Britain and the "white man", who ruled Zimbabwe until the country gained independence in 1980. "This country shall not again come under the rule and control of the white man, direct or indirect," Mugabe said.

Mugabe accused British Prime Minister Gordon Brown of interfering in Zimbabwe's affairs, after Brown called for "free and fair elections" and "an end to violence" on Friday. "We have become the focus of the British and the Americans. The U.S. has provided $70 million to the MDC for regime change ... and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is interfering in our internal affairs," Mugabe said. "Once again we want to make it clear to the British and Americans that we are no one's subjects and will never be."

The opposition accuses Mugabe's ZANU-PF party of using violence and intimidation in an attempt to win the run-off election. According to the MDC, 66 of its followers have been killed in attacks since the contested March election, in which Morgan Tsvangirai won the most votes but failed to secure a majority.

Today, police arrested Tsvangirai for the fifth time in less than ten days. He was released a few hours later along with 11 of his colleagues. "It is clearly impossible to talk about a free and fair election in Zimbabwe," the MDC said following Tsvangirai's arrest. "To suggest otherwise is to be clearly blind to the grave harassment, intimidation and violence that the people of Zimbabwe have had to endure over the past few years."

The Secretary-General of the MDC, Tendai Biti, appeared in court today after being arrested on Thursday. Prosecutors said they planned to charge him with treason, for proclaiming victory in the March election before official results were announced and for "publishing a document that was explaining a transitional strategy around March 26". Biti's lawyer says these charges could carry a death penalty.

On Friday, forty prominent African leaders, including former UN Secretaries-General Kofi Annan and Boutros Boutros-Ghali, criticized the government of Zimbabwe in an open letter, demanding an end to acts of "intimidation, harassment and violence". Meanwhile, Mugabe said that veterans of Zimbabwe's liberation war would be willing to take up arms in order to prevent the opposition from coming into power.